COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With the number of people eligible for COVID-19 booster shots growing, local doctors are weighing in on whether or not you should mix and match your shots.
After early guidance advised against the idea, some health experts now say there could be an advantage to receiving a booster shot that’s different from your initial vaccine.
“For people who have the option, just get the one that’s available to you, as long as it’s an mRNA vaccine,” Dr. Carlos Malvestutto, from the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, advises simply as it pertains to his booster recommendation.
While the answer is a single shot, for booster mixing and matching, there’s more than one question.
First and foremost, is it safe?
“Absolutely, it is. Mixing and matching is safe to do,” states Dr. Joseph Gastaldo from OhioHealth.
Health experts universally agree that receiving a booster shot different from a person’s original vaccination is in fact safe, even for individuals most at risk.
“There’s nothing in the data suggesting that certain people should not mix. If they want to mix, it’s safe to do so,” Dr. Malvestutto encourages, as well.
But the question that’s still up for debate is whether or not it’s more effective.
“If a patient came to you and said, ‘I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, do you recommend I get one of the mRNA boosters?”
“Yes. Yes, and that’s what I’ve been telling my patients,” Dr. Malvestutto confirms.
A test-tube study by the National Institute of Health showed booster shots from Pfizer and Moderna evoked a higher antibody response than that of the Johnson & Johnson booster.
“What that means in the real world? We don’t know. It doesn’t take into account your t-cell response, we don’t know what those high antibody numbers mean,” Dr. Gastaldo cautions.
Studying all the possible combination of shots, the study also revealed that people who received the single dose J&J vaccine saw the greatest spike in antibody levels.
“For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it was a lower efficacy. So already from the start, it’s a lower level of neutralizing antibodies, a lower level of protection,” explains Dr. Malvestutto of the company’s initial 72% efficacy rate.
For boosters, doctors say it’s as much about who’s getting the shot as it is which brand they’re getting.
“If you were a transplant patient, perhaps if you were in your 70’s, I would tell you as a patient to get an mRNA vaccine,” says Dr. Gastaldo, who advises patients to get whichever booster they feel comfortable with and is available to them.
A warning though: booster recommendations could still change.
“As we get real world data on how boosters perform, specifically different combinations of boosters, there may be more specific guidance for that. But right now, one booster brand is not recommended over another,” Dr. Gastaldo adds.
For now, health experts remain focused on getting more people to roll up their sleeves.
“This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated, in that they are the ones suffering the worst consequences of this,” cautions Dr. Malvestutto.
Doctors also suggest that individuals who experience a breakthrough infection wait between one and three months after their infection to receive their booster.